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by Peter Rousselot — June 11, 2015 at 11:45 am 1,191 0

peter_rousselot_2014-12-27_for_facebookPeter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

The County Board might adopt in July a new “Affordable Housing Master Plan.” There is justified concern in the County about “affordability.” But, rising property taxes also adversely affect affordability.

I support an appropriate level of taxpayer subsidies for affordable housing. However, it is poor public policy to commit the County to specific numerical affordable housing goals and other controversial policy changes without a thorough community conversation about:

  • direct costs to taxpayers of these subsidies,
  • opportunity costs (i.e., what tax dollars cannot be spent on core services (e.g., schools, parks, roads) in order to fund these subsidies), and
  • other neighborhood impacts (i.e., increased density).

The County has neither requested from its staff nor provided the community with these dollar costs and impacts. Therefore, final Board action on the plan should be deferred.

Based on a report prepared for the Arlington Civic Federation:

  • The plan would commit Arlington to adding up to 15,800 subsidized housing units over the next 25 years to meet a goal that 17.7% of Arlington’s housing should be affordable to low-income families.  There is no analysis of how to pay for this, or of the impact the additional population would have on:
    • Arlington’s already overburdened schools,
    • neighborhood density, and
    • other public services.
  • The plan would consider changing zoning to enable duplexes, triplexes and other multi-family housing in single-family neighborhoods contrary to the County’s long-standing “Smart Growth” promise to preserve Arlington’s single-family neighborhoods.
  • The plan eliminates the county’s long-standing specific goals for County-wide geographic distribution of affordable housing. This unduly would concentrate new affordable housing in Arlington’s poorest neighborhoods, adding to the burden on those Arlington schools whose students are most challenged.
  • The plan contemplates building housing on parks, if co-located with another facility such as a recreation center. This puts even greater pressure on our already inadequate amount of parkland.

The County needs to:

  • Provide a detailed analysis of the impact of this plan on other County services, our neighborhoods and our taxes.  The analysis must include estimates of the impact on our already overcrowded schools.  Up to 15,800 new housing units means a lot of new families and new students.  Where will we put the schools?  How will we pay for them?
  • Then facilitate a balanced community conversation about all of the plan’s potential impacts.

It will take time to perform and communicate the detailed analysis required. The community then needs an adequate amount of time to review the analysis and offer its views. For these reasons, final adoption of the plan should be postponed until after the November 2015 election.

The County Board that will implement the final plan should be the Board that debates and adopts that plan.

by ARLnow.com — June 5, 2015 at 5:30 pm 2,514 0

Deteriorating beam underneath Memorial Bridge (photo courtesy National Park Service)This week in local news started with a press conference at the Memorial Bridge, discussing the deterioration that has led federal authorities to close one lane of the bridge in each direction.

We were at the press conference but ultimately did not write an article about it, as there was little that was new from when we initially reported the story last Friday. One thing worth seeing, however: the photo included here, which shows the extent of the deterioration under the historic, 83-year-old span.

Feel free to discuss that or any other local item of interest in the comments.

by ARLnow.com — June 4, 2015 at 3:30 pm 2,639 0

Andrew Schneider

Last week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from Andrew Schneider:

When you run for office and knock on doors, you start to hear the same questions over and over.  Why are you running?  What are your priorities?  How are you different from the other candidates?

Why am I running?

I am running because Arlington is facing two concurrent challenges that must be addressed aggressively and creatively.  The first is our rapidly growing school population. Where we put these kids and how we pay for them is fundamental to the future of our County.  The second challenge is what’s happening with our economy – the high vacancy rates, the impact of BRAC, increasing regional competition, and the changing nature of office space and work.  As an Arlingtonian and as a candidate I have thought how these issues are interconnected and how I can make a difference in each of these areas.

  1. Stronger collaboration with the School Board in budgeting, school location and construction, and forecasting.
  2. To pay for schools, we must aggressively work with our partners in the business community and Arlington Economic Development to lower the vacancy rate and to invigorate the commercial sector in key areas like Rosslyn and Crystal City.
  3. To attract businesses we must have great customer service and make it easier to interact with the County.  This goes for residents as well as businesses whether it’s applying for a permit, submitting a site plan, or reporting a pothole.
  4. We can’t do any of these things if we spend our time playing “sandbox” politics.  From day one, I have focused my campaign on One Arlington, One Community.  We have to stop pitting different parts of our community against one another – Schools vs. Parks, North vs. South, Housing vs. Parks, and Business vs. Residents etc.

How am I different than other candidates?

The candidates that I am running against are all good people and we share many of the same values.  I like to answer this question through three criteria 1) Values 2) Experience and 3) Leadership style.

  1.  Regarding our values, the fact that we are all Democrats means that many of our core values are similar and, frankly, there isn’t a huge amount of policy separation between us.   This fact has been born out in nearly every policy question asked of through the campaign.
  2. Regarding experience, each of us brings different skills and experiences to the table.  Some of my colleagues argue that this is the defining differentiation.  I believe that my experience as an Arlingtonian, Civic Association President, and member of the Lee Highway revitalization effort has partially prepared me for this office.  I also believe that my MBA, work in the private sector, having run a Chamber of Commerce, and my work in the public sector has also prepared me.  I am a sum of my experienced and I believe that my resume and my record of leadership and of civic engagement have prepared me to serve our County.
  3. Regarding my leadership experience, I offer myself as a leader who listens and works to build consensus.  I will not present myself as someone who has all the answers but rather  I will work tirelessly every day to learn and act on behalf of the community that we all love so much.

From day one of this campaign, I have run as a candidate who will listen, work hard, and do what I can to address the challenges that we face as a County.  I promise to never talk down to voters, to always have an open mind, to always think creatively and innovatively, and to always reply to funny, snarky, and creative GIFs in the comment section of arlnow.com

To learn more about me, see a list of Arlingtonians who have endorsed me, and to watch my campaign videos, please visit www.andrewforarlington.com

I’d be honored to earn your vote on Tuesday.

by ARLnow.com — June 4, 2015 at 3:00 pm 1,250 0

Bruce WiljanenLast week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from Bruce Wiljanen:

Hello. My name is Bruce Wiljanen, and I am running for a seat on the Arlington County Board in order to bring a mature, common sense voice focused on preserving the best aspects of Arlington as we grow, the things that make Arlington a great place to live and raise a family. I am a lifelong Democrat, and have served in the Clinton Administration and with the Democratic National Committee. My wife and I have lived in the Maywood neighborhood of Arlington for over 22 years, and have raised our daughter through our excellent school system. I am running for the County Board to ensure that the Arlington we know and love will be here for our children as well.

A neighbor recently asked me a very interesting question. “Who do you think are the least well represented people in Arlington?” I had to think about that. And I’m coming to the conclusion that by far the most underrepresented group of people in Arlington is the ordinary working family. I’m referring to the great number of Arlington men and women who go to work each day, whose children are in our schools, who live busy lives during the week and spend weekends with their friends and family, maybe involved in sports leagues or church activities, but are unable to participate in the inner workings of local government. I am talking about the large majority of Arlington voters who pay their taxes without complaint and quietly wait, and hope, for a practical, unpoliticized County Board to focus on taking care of the basic needs of our community in a frugal, equitable and common sense manner. These Arlington citizens continue to wait for the County Board to stop trying to please every constituency, and to work toward developing a strategic plan to guide our growth over the coming years. I am one of these Arlingtonians.

As a candidate for the Arlington County Board, I have had the singular experience of hearing recently from almost every group of citizens who would like to influence the decisions of our county government. I’ve talked with organizations that want more affordable housing, and those which construct office buildings. I’ve been contacted by artist’s and bicyclist’s interest groups, and by folks whose concerns are for parks and community gardens. I’ve spoken with union workers’ and teacher’s government affairs committees. We have many groups working tirelessly to get their agenda heard, funded, and passed into law by the County Board. Some of us are well represented, indeed!

But the biggest group of citizens we rarely hear from, by far, is the great majority of Arlington residents who never lobby for any special treatment from the county government, who only wish that our elected Board members would work more diligently to conserve our quality of life as our population grows by protecting our excellent parks and our superb schools, and continue to provide services for those of our neighbors who may need a helping hand. We just don’t hear from the many unrepresented Arlington residents who would like to be confident the Board would focus on building an infrastructure which serves the community and fosters new business growth, and wouldn’t overextend the budget to build legacy projects of questionable utility. Our County Board should not strive for grandiosity nor austerity, but work to put in place practical solutions to our everyday problems.

When we vote for a representative on the County Board, we are choosing a person who will be entrusted to make future decisions on our behalf, and for the benefit of all Arlingtonians. We are selecting a person able to weigh new and unanticipated situations in an equitable, unbiased, and common sense manner. We should elect a person who reflects our views regarding the overall direction the county should take, and not rely on those closely involved in the mechanics of commissions and boards to envision the future. As a principled Democrat who is not entangled in the current county government, I can be the truly independent Democratic voice needed on the Arlington County Board today. I am not endorsed by any of the current members of our local power structure, but I am willing to be endorsed by you, the average Arlington voter. I’m asking for your vote on the Bottom Line of the ballot, Bruce Wiljanen for County Board, to provide the people of Arlington with a mature, common sense advocate on the Arlington County Board for the years to come.

by ARLnow.com — June 4, 2015 at 2:30 pm 2,276 0

Katie Cristol

Last week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from Katie Cristol:

Thank you to ARLnow readers for engaging with us as candidates in the June 9th Democratic primary.

I’m running for the County Board because I believe that all of Arlington benefits when all of Arlington is represented. I believe we need new perspectives on the challenges Arlington currently faces, such as the high cost of housing that makes our young families and retirees alike worry they won’t be able to stay in our community. I believe we need new ways of looking at the trends shaping Arlington, including our growing school-age population and the shrinking federal government footprint in our commercial sector.

For the past few months, I’ve campaigned largely on my ideas for addressing the housing affordability crisis in Arlington; for moving my neighborhood of Columbia Pike forward with new transportation strategies; for restoring citizen trust and creating a more representative government. It’s been an honor to learn from and shape those plans with neighbors throughout Arlington, and to receive support from a growing coalition, including The Washington Post, five leading local unions, and dozens of Arlington leaders, small business owners and community advocates.

Now, as Arlingtonians consider their decisions on June 9th, I’m making the case that I offer the right combination of experience, openness and innovation to put those ideas into practice, to serve all of Arlington and to move us forward:

Record of Service and the Skills to Do the Job. I bring a background in public policy — including my years of experience working with state and local governments on strategic planning and community engagement, and training in municipal finance and program evaluation — that will enable me to bring comparative perspectives and sound judgment to the County Board.

I also have a record of service in our community. On the Commission on the Status of Women, I have investigated and elevated issues like childcare affordability and sexual violence in Arlington. I’ve served our schools as an appointed member of the APS Advisory Council on Instruction. I know how things get done – and don’t get done – in Arlington, and I’m ready to lead effectively from my first day as a County Board member.

Openness and Innovation. Thanks to my experience, I know that Arlington is a place with tough challenges and smart people. If there were easy solutions, we’d have adopted them already. But openness and innovation – in our leaders and on the Board – is what helps us keep in check the pessimism and insularity that can accompany experience alone.

In all corners of the County, Arlingtonians are hungry for more responsiveness and greater inclusion; this requires leaders who are open to trying different things, and who have the intellectual curiosity to look for other models. And this is why I believe we all benefit when our five-member Board includes new perspectives, like the one I’m offering on June 9th.

Thank you for your consideration, and I hope we’ll continue the conversation.

by ARLnow.com — June 4, 2015 at 2:00 pm 1,357 0

James LanderLast week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from James Lander:

I’ve been honored to serve as your Arlington School Board member for the past five years, most recently as chairman.

I’m running for the Arlington County Board because our community is in the midst of change, and I believe experience and forward-thinking leadership will be essential in making a difference. Our community faces a number of challenges; the decline in nonresidential tax revenue, as well as continuing growth of our population, increased demand for services, additional transportation options, and increased need for essential infrastructures.

Arlington is gaining an average of 1,000 additional students a year.  Not only must our schools have the resources to educate additional students, we must not neglect the other values that have made Arlington a top-rated, livable community.  We must continue to support and encourage safe and attractive neighborhoods, well-maintained streets and parks, libraries, and access to recreation, entertainment, and the arts.

As a leader and member of the School Board these past five years, I am strongly familiar with the importance of a collaborative working relationship between our two elected boards. As your County Board member, I will lead an effort to specifically address the challenges of Arlington’s growing populations. This effort aims to thoroughly examine the many competing priorities in order to find ways to accomplish more with limited resources. As a member of the School Board, I’ve worked to be fiscally responsible while maintaining Arlington’s outstanding school system. Within the last year, I have overseen the reduction of costs within the APS annual budget while continuing to focus on student achievement and providing pay increases to our talented teachers.  I also have ideas to explore ways to address our challenges.

One of my specific proposals for addressing the growing need for faster, safer, more efficient, and more affordable alternatives options for transportation includes two Arlington circular lines, one in South Arlington and one in North Arlington. In South Arlington, I would pursue the idea of a continuous bus route connecting Columbia Pike, Crystal City, Shirlington, and Bailey’s Crossroads. This would enable us to connect areas primed for increased development and pave the way for bringing Northern Virginia Community College into Crystal City, where we currently have eight vacant buildings. Our educated workforce needs to locate where we want our businesses. I’m also seeking to implement a workforce development pipeline in partnership with the hospitality industry; there are 10,000 hotel rooms in Crystal City that could potentially provide paid internships for our adult students and our immigrant population.

In North Arlington, I would promote establishing a circular line that connects Lee Highway, Virginia Square, Ballston, and Rosslyn. This would contribute to encouraging attractive development along Lee Highway. I propose exploring public/private partnerships with developers and academic institutions on innovative projects such as micro-unit housing for graduate students and county employees. This approach would not only keep Arlington dollars in Arlington, but also keep Arlington students and new county employees in Arlington.

Our community, diverse and inclusive, boasting a well-educated workforce, attractive neighborhoods and commercial sectors, parks and open spaces, and committed to protecting the environment and the well being of its residents, did not achieve its great quality of life quickly or by accident. Strong democratic leadership, sound fiscal policies, and investment in its residents and infrastructure are what have made Arlington such an outstanding community.

I will dedicate myself to ensuring the views and voices of our community are heard and considered as decisions move forward.  I want to look for ways to improve the county’s financial burdens, including finding ways to reduce the vacancy rate in the county’s commercial sector.  Lastly, I pledge to continue to be a dedicated steward of ensuring Arlington County is among the top communities in the country to live, work, and raise a family.

I ask for your vote for the Arlington County Board in the June 9th Democratic Primary. If you would like to visit my website to learn more about me, please go to www.jameslander.org.  Thank you.

by ARLnow.com — June 4, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,462 0

Peter FallonLast week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from Peter Fallon:

I have a reputation for speaking plainly. That’s why, even though the challenges facing Arlington are complex, I can sum up my solutions in just three words: transparency, accountability and communication.

I’m proud to be a Democrat. The long-term vision of Democratic leadership on the County Board has made Arlington a magnet for new residents and economic growth, and one of the finest communities in America. I should know – Arlington welcomed me when I moved here nearly 30 years ago, and I knew this would be where I raised my family.

I’ve proudly served our community for over 25 years as a Planning Commissioner, Transportation Commissioner, Civic Association President and Progressive activist. I’ve led initiatives that built six schools, three major parks and over 1,000 units of committed affordable housing in our community. I’ve had a front row seat as we’ve blossomed as a community.

It wasn’t always easy. Some of these projects weren’t popular at the time, but I fought for them because I believe a strong Arlington requires making tough, long-term decisions. Here’s how we’ll do it again.

Transparency

Good government requires transparency, both in sharing information and decision making. I support requiring a minimum of 72 hours for the release of Board documents. When voters feel the Board is acting without proper notice, it erodes the community relationship we depend on for effective governance. We can’t live up to our Arlington values when people feel they are irrelevant.

Accountability

I support the decision to create an independent audit function to provide better value for tax dollars and to keep our county programs efficient and effective. We also need firm deadlines on decision making. This will end the continual delays around tough decisions on school construction, community services and vital transportation improvements. We can no longer afford delays.

Communication

Voters often tell me they feel unheard by the County Board. Recent controversies surrounding school capacity, Reevesland and the future of the Wilson School show we must rebuild public trust in County Board operations. It’s time to get back into the community in a visible way, and that means practicing humility and owning our shortcomings in past community engagement.

Voters are eager to implement these ideas, and more.

Voters want a leader who will pay close attention to our finances, and ensuring we spend tax dollars wisely on real community priorities, and speak up when something is wrong.

Voters want to keep our schools strong and retain quality teachers. They want our children out of crowded trailers and in modern classrooms that prepare them for excellence.

Voters want a transportation plan that works for Columbia Pike and Crystal City. Just because we canceled a streetcar doesn’t mean we can dodge finding another solution. The County Board offered enhanced bus service as an alternative – now it’s time to bring residents into the conversation and act.

These best practices resonate with our leadership, too.

I’m proud to have the support of our strongest community voices, including Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Patrick Hope, Del. Rip Sullivan, former Treasurer Frank O’Leary, The Sun Gazette, The Virginia Sierra Club and The Washington Post. But the endorsement I most seek is yours.

I hope you’ll join me in building a transparent, accountable and communicative Arlington by casting one of your two votes for me on June 9th. And I hope you’ll share your priorities with me at www.FallonforCountyBoard.org.

I can promise you this: even when we do not agree, I will always be transparent with you, and respectful of the diverse opinions that make our community strong. The County Board – our County Board – should pledge nothing less.

by ARLnow.com — June 4, 2015 at 1:00 pm 1,611 0

Christian Dorsey

Last week we asked the six Democratic Arlington County Board candidates to write a sub-750 word essay on why our readers should vote for them during the June 9 primary. Two County Board seats are up for grabs this year.

Here is the unedited response from Christian Dorsey:

On June 9th, voters in the Democratic primary will select their nominees for two open County Board seats. Six candidates. Two slots. I ask that you select me, Christian Dorsey, for one of them.

Serving on the County Board requires having the ability to govern paired with the temperament to provide leadership on a range of issues from unsafe sidewalks to long-term capital investments. And now, perhaps more than ever, Board members must bring practical experience, strategic thinking, a commitment to inclusive decision-making and thoughtful independence if we are to realize what I believe is our shared vision–a strong and sustainable community.

To realize that vision, we need to: make it easier for small businesses to thrive in Arlington so that homeowners do not bear a disproportionate tax burden; prudently expand affordable housing so that modest wage workers, teachers, county employees and retirees are not priced out of our community; build adequate school capacity so that schools can focus on instruction; prioritize the nuts and bolts, like fixing potholes and sidewalks and enhancing pedestrian safety; and create opportunities for growth by improving public transportation.

As a south Arlington resident, daily bus rider and parent of two school-aged children, I regularly experience the issues that we must confront as a County. My professional and civic experiences provide a solid foundation for me to find solutions to our challenges.  I have served on the Planning Commission, chaired the Tenant-Landlord Commission and was a member of the Affordable Dwelling Unit ordinance task force. I currently serve on an advisory committee to the School Board that is concerned with facilities and capital programs.

But, my experience has not been limited to providing advice. I have been the CEO of several non-profits that: delivered outstanding literacy support for low-income children; pioneered a pop-up social services center in south Arlington; and developed a model diversity education and inclusion program for students.  Additionally, I assembled a development team that built an Earthcraft certified apartment building in the Nauck neighborhood.

As Arlington now faces the fundamental question of how to accelerate economic growth and strengthen the commercial sector to alleviate the squeeze on residential taxpayers, I have a unique and unrivaled expertise to make sure we get it right.

As a senior leader at Washington’s Economic Policy Institute, I lead the development of the alternative federal budget for the Congressional Progressive Caucus. I know what it takes to align a budget with strategic objectives and how to ensure that it delivers maximum value to taxpayers. Furthermore, I understand that the growth we need will be facilitated by freeing businesses from unnecessary red tape and inefficient processes.  And retail, in particular, will benefit when we succeed in making housing more affordable so that even when income growth is stagnant, residents will have more money to spend.

Arlington’s future can be bright, but it will require hard work and making smart choices. I am prepared and eager to do my part, and I ask for your vote.  To see why Delegate Patrick Hope, Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy, School Board Member Abby Raphael, former Delegate Karen Darner, former School Board Member Frank Wilson, the Arlington Education Association PAC, Working Families, New Virginia Majority and many of your friends and neighbors endorse my campaign, visit www.christiandorsey.org.

by ARLnow.com — May 29, 2015 at 5:00 pm 2,287 0

Eagles along Spout Run by Philliefan99It’s the weekend, which means it’s time to turn over the discussion to you, the readers.

Feel free to discuss any topic of local interest in the comments.

Also, please welcome Heather Mongilio, our new ARLnow.com reporter. Heather comes to by way of American University, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Eagle.

Heather is a breaking news adrenaline junkie who’s also interested in reporting on health and mental health issues. In her spare time she enjoys reading, catching up on shows via Netflix and Hulu, landscape and nature photography and playing with her two dogs.

Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99

by Mark Kelly — May 28, 2015 at 1:30 pm 1,326 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThe County Board’s last minute decision to sell the Reevesland house has caused quite a stir.

The neighborhood objected because the County was abandoning its promise to find a way to open it up for public use. Others objected because it was yet another example of a tin ear method of operation by the Board.

This decision very well may make financial sense. But driving by the million dollar bus stop on Columbia Pike again the other day, I could not help but think of all the money wasted over the years by our elected officials. So newfound urgent fiscal concerns, particularly by our current Board Chair, ring a little bit hollow.

A four month delay to proceed with the sale may not have been in order, but clearly the Board’s intent to consider decision could have been noticed for the June meeting at little additional cost to the taxpayer. It would have given the community ample time to plead their case.

Hopefully, the public pushback is a reminder to Board members of why they should always do things in a more transparent manner. It is not the first time little notice was given before a controversial Board decision, but it should be the last.

The story making even bigger headlines is the lease for a gun store in Cherrydale.

What do we know?

Nova Firearms has signed a lease for the storefront. The Constitution protects our right to own or not own a firearm while the Supreme Court allows the government to impose some restrictions on sales and possession. And from all indications, Nova Firearms is a legitimate business that obeys all relevant laws governing the sale of firearms.

The Constitution also protects our right to free speech. Those protesting the store’s opening have every right to express their opinions. Those supporting the store can do the same.

What will happen?

Ultimately, we are still, and should always remain, a nation of laws. And in this matter, the law seems pretty clear.

Despite news reports that the shopping center owner may be trying to break the lease, it appears to be a legally binding contract between the two parties. Unless the owner finds a legal loophole or talks Nova Firearms into pulling out of the lease voluntarily, the store is almost certainly going to open as planned.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Peter Rousselot — May 28, 2015 at 12:45 pm 1,490 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselotnew report by the Schools Committee of the Arlington Civic Federation challenges APS’ enrollment growth plans. The report demonstrates that APS has failed to take into account adequately the possibility that current enrollment forecasts are significantly understated.

Our capital improvement program (CIP) must do a much better job taking into account the possibility that enrollment, and therefore the cost of additional seats, will be significantly higher than now estimated.

Hundreds of millions of our tax dollars are involved.

Enrollment Forecast Issues

The vast preponderance of data points to significantly higher enrollment growth than now forecast by APS:

  • APS enrollment grew 5.2% from 2013 to 2014,
  • From 2015 through 2021, APS forecasts no increase in kindergarten enrollment, despite a 4.5% compound annual growth rate over the past 7 years. The last 6 kindergarten classes have been at least 25% larger than the classes over the prior six years,
  • The APS forecast removes up to 11.1% of students in its forecast between 5th and 6th grade when the recent average loss is only 1.3%, and other factors may understate middle school projections by as many as 700 students in 2024,
  • Sudden changes in medium term projections of cohort progressions are not justified. This disappearance of rising 5th graders masks the need for far more high school capacity to be completed by 2024,
  • APS grew 5.2% last year and averaged 3.7% growth for 4 years, but overall growth rates in the current forecast drop significantly year over year, creating future risk.

Major Implications

Among the major implications of significantly underestimating enrollment growth are these:

  • Building too small, too late is the most costly and disruptive way to expand,
  • We must lower the cost per seat,
  • The CIP must plan much better for higher enrollment growth and attendant costs within financial and space constraints:
    • We need designs that can expand or scale back cost effectively with shorter or longer wings, fewer or additional floors, and gyms and cafeterias on outside walls that can be expanded,
    • We must do the basic math regarding on how many sites APS can build, and the maximum size of cost-effective school additions, before sizing schools and then realizing we need to add 10-20% to the capacity of every school because there is no place left for new schools.

CONCLUSION

The vast majority of enrollment drivers point towards significantly higher enrollment growth and related capital expenditures than currently forecast. APS must make revisions now to take this into account. The County Board must begin now seriously to discuss options such as:

  • developer contributions (proffers),
  • deferral of County capital projects, and/or
  • providing APS with a higher share of overall debt service limits.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Gillian Burgess — May 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm 933 0

Progressive Voice is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s organization or of ARLnow.com.

Gillian BurgessEvery May, millions of Americans take to the streets, trails and paths on two wheels to enjoy the feeling of the wind in their hair, the sun on their helmets and the pedals under their feet in celebration of bike month.

This May has been a wonderful time to bike here in Arlington. In addition to the mostly beautiful weather, we have had some very successful events, which show the growing popularity of cycling in Arlington.

Bike and Walk to School Day, which was on Wednesday, May 6th this year, was a record-setting success for Arlington Public Schools. Arlington was fourth among U.S. cities with registered events at 33 schools, including diverse participation from neighborhood and county-wide schools. Students arriving on bike or foot were treated to VIP entrances and rallies, a special obstacle course for cyclists, and lots of goodies.

Bike to Work Day 2015 (photo via Bike Arlington/Facebook)Many APS staff biked to work, including at least one principal, and were rewarded with gift cards. A huge thanks to Tom Norton, the APS Safe Routes to School Coordinator, and to all APS and Arlington County staff and partners who had a role in this great day. Pictures can be found online using the hashtag #BWTSD15.

For adults (and kids who were towed along), Bike to Work Day was Friday, May 15th. It was also hugely successful. Arlington hosted six pit stops, including a new stop along Columbia Pike in Penrose, where cyclists could stop on their way to work and be treated to coffee, treats, swag, and lots of excited cheering from superheroes, unicyclists and elected officials.

In all 2,596 people registered for the Arlington pit stops and almost 17,500 registered for pit stops across the region. Both were a 4% increase over 2014. Over 1,000 of Arlington registrants were first timers! BikeArlington, WABA and their partners deserve thanks for hosting this great day. Pictures can be found online on the BikeArlington website and using the hashtag #BTWDDC.

With so many new riders, the growth in Bike to Work Day was no surprise. More impressive is the general growth of cycling in Arlington and the region. Anecdotally, we’ve all noticed more cyclists on the roads and on the trails, and that we’re seeing a more diverse group of people on bikes.

Bike racks at local schools and offices are filling up on “normal” weekdays. My family’s preschool has multiple families biking with their toddlers. Bike parking along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor fills up at night and on the weekends. It’s great to see more women, more people of color, and more families cycling on streets and trails.

Data backs up our experience. Many of Arlington’s automated counters of bicycle and pedestrian trips along some trails and bike lanes have shown significant increases in bike traffic. Some – like the counter on the Mount Vernon Trail south of DCA – have shown a greater than 20% increase from May 2014 to May 2015. Clearly, Arlingtonians are hopping on bikes more often.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — May 22, 2015 at 4:30 pm 2,072 0

The weekend is finally here, which means three days of grilling, relaxing, being active outdoors, grumbling about motorcycle noise, spending time with friends and family, watching sports and, most importantly, remembering those who gave their lives in the service of our country.

We’ll think not only of the recent veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan but, with Rolling Thunder in town, of veterans of earlier foreign wars like the Vietnam War. Thinking about the Vietnam War and how it’s remembered in Arlington, the hallowed grounds of Arlington National Cemetery might first come to mind. But one can also think of Clarendon.

The county-produced video above covers the May 9 “Echoes of Little Saigon” history program, which explored the 1970s and 1980s in Clarendon, when the neighborhood was home to many Vietnamese refugees and the businesses they started, following the fall of Saigon.

Most of those businesses have since been displaced due to ever-rising rents, but their creators and customers who fled the war in Vietnam have largely gone on to raise families and successfully integrate themselves into American society. One could consider it a happy legacy of the war and a tribute to the cause of freedom and democracy that American service members fight for.

With that, feel free to use the comments section to discuss any local topics of interest this weekend. We’ll be back on Tuesday with more local news and notes.

by Mark Kelly — May 21, 2015 at 1:45 pm 647 0

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Mark KellyThumbs Up to the County Board for delaying consideration of the proposal to extend parking meter hours from 6pm to 8pm. After watching ground floor retail space sit empty, hopefully the Board will scrap this idea altogether when they reconsider it this fall.

Thumbs Up to Board Members Vihstadt and Garvey for refusing to vote for the Washington Redskins resolution.

There is no shortage of strong opinions as to whether the Washington Redskins should change their name. But when it comes to Members of the Arlington County Board, their personal opinions on the matter have nothing to do with their responsibilities to take care of the needs of Arlington County. Our fortunes will not rise or fall on the name of Washington’s professional football team whose stadium is in Maryland.

The resolution did support the team’s move to Virginia, provided it had a new name. Of course, when FedEx Field was constructed Arlington’s elected leaders ultimately opposed a site in the County and would almost certainly do so again.

Thumbs Down to meaningless resolutions from our County Board.

Telling a football team what to do with its name is not the first time the Board has taken up this type of resolution. In 2012, for example, the Board called on Congress and the American people to pass a Constitutional Amendment limiting the ability of corporations to enjoy the protections of the First Amendment and make political contributions. That resolution essentially called the Citizens United Supreme Court case a threat to our democracy. Though to my knowledge, no County Board Member who voted for that resolution ever refused to accept corporate contributions to their own campaigns as allowed by Virginia law.

Thumbs Down to the Board for unanimously adopting a plan to build an inadequate ART bus facility. As the County’s press release noted, “The new ART bus facility will not be large enough to meet all the County’s projected needs for ART facilities. It can house neither the entire existing ART fleet, nor accommodate all of the buses that will expand the fleet over the next decade.”

The total cost of the ART facility and surrounding street improvements will cost at least $17.6 million, but will only save the taxpayers $57,000 per year.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

by Peter Rousselot — May 21, 2015 at 1:00 pm 386 0

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter Rousselot

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe continues to display effective leadership by tirelessly promoting economic development. McAuliffe is:

1. Working to end Virginia’s over-reliance on federal defense spending, and
2. Seeking to diversify Virginia’s economy to take up the slack.

McAuliffe was here in Arlington two weeks ago highlighting cybersecurity and biotechnology as two areas particularly poised for growth.

According to the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, the decline in federal spending has contributed to a region-wide shift from higher-paying jobs — government contractor and subcontractor — to lower paying jobs:

The shift has helped drive down the region’s gross regional product, an indicator of an economy’s health, by nearly $243 million since last year. Fewer highly paid workers, in turn, has led to … higher office vacancy rates and–year after year–reductions in the projected flow of tax dollars that help pay for schools, roads and other government services.

Stephen Fuller, the Director of the Center for Regional Analysis, underscored the problem:

“We’ve just had it easy for so long that we’ve never had to work at this.” Steady increases in federal spending, which reached a peak of $80.7 billion in 2010, kept the Washington region relatively stable during the recession. But it also fostered a false sense of security. “The message is clear: We need to rebrand ourselves and promote our assets.”

Fuller’s message is exactly the gospel that McAuliffe relentlessly continues to preach:

We have to build our own new economy, less reliant on the federal government, bring in new businesses, new interests. That’s what [my] focus has been since taking office in 2014. In slightly more than a year as governor, there have been 350 economic development projects and $6.3 billion in economic activity.

McAuliffe has stressed the importance of workforce development, credentialing, and apprenticeships: “Virginia needs to keep pace with employers’ needs if it wants to retain large companies. [We] need to cater to the large veteran population in Virginia by offering certifications for skills learned in the military.”

He is working closely with Senators Kaine and Warner to block the next round of federal automatic across-the-board sequestration cuts. Those cuts currently are scheduled to take effect on October 1, 2015. In a nutshell, McAuliffe’s message on sequestration is: “there have to be smarter ways to cut the federal budget.”

Conclusion

The Arlington County government cannot rely on the federal government gravy train the way Arlington has in the past. We need to spend every one of our tax dollars wisely. Kudos to Governor McAuliffe for:

  • candidly explaining the situation, and
  • highlighting what all Virginia leaders must do to adjust to our new economic realities.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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